The Vatican will make its most detailed defence yet today against claims that it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children. The Vatican will make its most detailed defence yet today against claims that it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children.
It will say bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet.
The Vatican will make the arguments in a motion to dismiss a US lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds filed in Louisville, Kentucky, but it could affect other efforts to sue the Holy See.
The Vatican's US lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, said it would include a response to claims that the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis - Latin for "crimes of solicitation" - barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.
Mr Lena said last night there was no evidence the document was even known to the archdiocese in question - much less used - and, regardless of that, it did not mandate that bishops should not report abusive priests.
He said the confidentiality imposed by Crimen did not supercede civil law and was applied only in formal canonical processes, which bishops had the discretion to suspend if there was a conflict with reporting laws.
"It is important that people - particularly people who have suffered abuse - know that, contrary to what some plaintiffs' lawyers have consistently told the media, the canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities," Mr Lena said.
The document describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional - a particularly heinous crime under canon law - and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.
The lawyer behind the Kentucky case, William McMurry, said in a recent email that the document was "a smoking gun".
"It's evidence of a 'written' policy that demands no mention be made by a bishop of priest sex abuse," he said. "Since our case, and no other, is about holding the Vatican accountable for the bishops' failure to report to civil authorities, any policy that gags the bishop is relevant and material."
The Holy See is trying to fend off the first US case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for the failure of bishops to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.
The case was filed in 2004 by three men who claim they were abused by priests decades ago and claim negligence by the Vatican.
Mr McMurry is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country. McMurry also represented 243 sex abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for £17.5 million.
The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Pope Benedict XVI can be questioned or documents subpoenaed.
Its motion is being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See, since the court's eventual decision could have implications for a lawsuit naming top Vatican officials that was recently filed in Wisconsin and another one in Oregon is pending before the US Supreme Court.
The Vatican was expected to assert that bishops are not its employees because they are not paid by Rome, do not act on Rome's behalf and are not controlled day to day by the Pope - factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees, Mr Lena said.
He said he would suggest to the court that it should avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the Pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangled the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that dated back to the apostles.
"He (Mr McMurry) wishes to invoke religious authority to construct a civil employment relationship, and our view is that it's an inappropriate invitation to the court to consider religious doctrine," Mr Lena said.
"Courts tend to avoid constructing civil relationships out of religious materials."
Mr McMurry has said that the Vatican had clear and direct control over bishops, mandated a policy of secrecy, and is therefore liable for the bishops' failure to report abuse. He is seeking unspecified damages.
This is very interesting.
This issue is making headlines in various places. Just recently in an Indianapolis paper near me, there was an article about how a man who was molested by a priest got a large monetary settlement from the Catholic Church (not from the actual molester!). The statute of limitations had run out, but the Church gave the guy money....
Can the Catholic Church recover as long as it continues to try and cover up its crimes
No, and it calls into question the whole basis of their beliefs!
Because if they really believed there was a Hell and they would burn in it for eternity...they would never molest a child!
Molest a child=Eternity burning in hell....They must not really believe it.
lovemychris - I agree - I think that the great fires of hell will burn for eternity - while one can understand - not condone - individual weakness or evil - this is about a Church from the Vatican down who are involved in one of the greatest cover ups in history - and having been exposed continue to use the courts to try and hide their crimes - this court case as highlighted is about trying to stop the Pope from being questioned - what has he got to hide ?
I would like to see this case go the whole way with the Pope forced to answer questions about his role in such cases as reported in the media
It is interesting and thanks for your contribution - but the most interesting thing is that money appears to be replacing criminal prosecution in many countries - In Ireland the Government have given one billion to a redress board for the many thousands of children that were raped by religious orders while those children were in institutions run by the Catholic Church and supervised by the Government Departments - three major reports have shown that Civil authorities colluded with the Church at the highest level to protect these Devils in Skirts - less than on eper cent of the Devils have ever been prosecuted yet they have been identified in Statutory inquiries that were over seen by Judges - bad thing shappen when good people saty silent
by Knight6 7 years ago
the irish government has had enough of the vatican lies with reguard to child abuse and in a new turn the vaticans response to the clyone report cliams they were innocent by not knowing who was doing what the irish government said it will introduce new laws that will supercide canon law which means...
by emdi 9 years ago
It was with great distress that I read the news about the child abuse scandal in catholic church. What do you think is the root cause of the problem? what change do you suggest to prevent further crimes?
by DennisBarker 7 years ago
I havn't found anything in the bible which says yes, so has the catholic church got a well documented history of covering up child abuse?
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What do you think is the single best decision you've made in your life so far?Post every ones special moments and decisions that changed the life.
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There are people who strongly assert and believe that those in powerful and authoritative positions in churches whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, and/or Eastern Orthodox are godlike. As a result of such thinking, these people blilndly adhere to what these religious authorities...
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